January and February 2014 bookish activities

Late again – as usual!  What can I say – apart from I apologize?

Once again I am combining two months of reading, buying and other bookish/literary activities.  Admittedly January is usually pretty quiet – at least here in Accra – partly as people recover from Christmas/New Year, and set about new activities.

I read 11 books during these two months:  10 fiction, and one non-fiction, six male authors and five females, two African books, one Ghanaian, and the rest with a non-African focus.  Of the books I read, six were physical and five were electronic.

  1. Scientific progress goes “boink”, by Bill Watterson. [I am a Calvin and Hobbes addict.  I love them, and pity their poor parents!]
  2. NW, by Zadie Smith.  [The pull of a particular area on a group of Londoners as they grow up]
  3. The hunger games, by Suzanne Collins.  [Unusually I had watched part of the movie before reading the book, but on reflection found that the movie had actually adhered quite well to much of the story.  Now I do have to read the rest of the series before seeing those movies!]
  4. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor Hartmann.  [Variable quality, but altogether a pretty good bunch.  I enjoyed the collection!  I wish there had been a Ghanaian writer among them though!]
  5. Inferno, by Dan Brown.  [I know this is light weight reading, but so what?  It read just like a movie script!]
  6. Gone girl, by Gillian Flynn.  [This did come well recommended, and even though I didn’t particularly “like” any of the characters, the story is very, very well told]
  7. The ocean at the end of the lane, by Neil Gaiman. [I love Neil Gaiman, and the way he captures the fears of children especially.  So this was definitely one of my favourites]
  8. Bad blood, by Linda Fairstein. [I had heard of this mystery writer, but never read any of her books.  It was entertaining, and the plot was quite intricate, but I didn’t get much of an impression about the central character]
  9. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey. [Light mystery, set in Accra]
  10. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo. [Short stories set in Nigeria, some I liked, some I didn’t]
  11. Dear life, by Alice Munro. [Short stories by the Nobel Prize winning author.  Read for Accra Book Club.  At first the lives depicted seem to be rather ordinary, but there are often twists in these tales.]

I treated myself to buying nine physical books, and 13 ebooks (thanks to Christmas gift cards!)

Not too many literary activities though.

There were two Accra Book Club gatherings.  For the first one, there were only two of us – a pity as the read was Enders game, by Orson Scott Card, which I had hoped to discuss with someone else, even if the person had only seen the movie, which I don’t think was shown here in Accra (though I could easily be wrong on that score!).  The other ABC discussion by contrast was well attended with six of us talking about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book.  The setting was suitable – a local restaurant called Buka (a local eating place in Nigeria) – and indeed there were many Nigerians also eating there.

I attended one book launch – at the University of Ghana Institute of African Studies – for the book Africa in contemporary perspective, edited by Takyiwaa Manuh and Esi Sutherland-Addy. Typically I couldn’t stay for the whole function, as I had a meeting to attend!

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August and September book-related activities

I haven’t talked about my reading, book buying, or bookish events for a while, so rather than wait till the end of this month, I will look back on August and September, which weren’t horribly busy.

During these two months, I completed nine books – two fiction (only!) and seven non-fiction – the proportions being quite unusual for me, as I tend usually to read more fiction than non-fiction. Three books had a Ghana focus, four were on Africa/by African writers, and two were by non-Africans and neither on Ghana or Africa.

I bought eight physical books – including two cookbooks – plus four e-books.

So, to the books I completed:

  • Snowdrops, by A D Miller (a thriller set in a wintry Moscow; nothing is really what it seems)
  • Gulp, by Mary Roach (an entertaining non-fiction book on the gut)
  • The boy who harnessed the wind, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer (very inspiring book book about a young Malawian inventor)
  • Bright lights, no city, by Max Alexander (story of Burro, a social enterprise in Ghana)
  • Interventions: a life in war and peace, by Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh (entertaining and illuminating autobiography by the former UN Secretary-General)
  • Birds of our land, by Virginia W Dike (children’s guide to bird of southern Nigeria)
  • Lose your mother, by Saidiya Hartman (aspects of the slave trade and its heritage, with emphasis in Ghana)
  • There was a country – A personal history of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe (a very personal view of some of the events of the Biafran war)
  • No time like the present, by Nadine Gordimer (read for Accra Book Club; on contemporary South Africa)

As for bookish events, I missed a couple of the August events – a reading by Nii Ayikwei Parkes and the launch of Boakyewaa Glover’s latest book – due to car issues.  Needless to say, I was not pleased.

There was a gathering of the Accra Book Club, the first for a while, due to the “summer”/vacation period. Those of us who had read The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared (by Jonas Jonasson) found it very entertaining, and a good read. Only a couple of us had read Canada, by Richard Ford, so there wasn’t much of a discussion on that novel.

I also attended Nigerian writer Sefi Atta’s reading at the Goethe Institut at the end of September, part of the Ghana Voices series organized by the Writers Project of Ghana.

And also at the end of September, I took part in the launch of the 5th edition of NAWA (North American Women’s Association)’s guide to living in Accra, No Worries. Interestingly I actually have all five editions! 5 editions of No Worries

July round-up – books etc

Although it wasn’t that long ago since I posted about my reading, buying and events, this was about May and June, so rather than delaying things, I thought I should get my act together reasonably early this time.

So this covers activities in July.

I completed six books during the period: five fiction and one non-fiction. There were four male authors and two females, and only one Ghanaian author! Plus two were read on Kindle, and the rest in physical form.

Here,  in the order that I finished them, are my July reads:

  1. Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan [read for Accra Book Club; I preferred the first part of this novel, and didn’t really like the way it ended. Maybe I need to re-read it?]
  2. Late rain, by Lynn Kostoff [I guess you could call this a crime story, maybe Florida noir?]
  3. The kill artist, by Daniel Silva [pure escapism, but a good story nonetheless. I do like Silva’s hero!]
  4. Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi [family saga or drama; very poignant and moving. I really liked it.  I think this is one of my favourite books of the year.]
  5. Holes, by Louis Sachar [I had seen the movie, and then came across the book. Not sure which one I preferred!]
  6. Taste – the story of Britain through its cooking, by Kate Colquhoun [I do like cookery and food books, and this one was pretty interesting]

The buying front was also pretty busy – and somewhat self-indulgent. I managed to acquire seven titles on my Kindle (or rather, to be read via a Kindle app on my new tablet) – including four freebies (yeah!) plus nine physical books. That definitely means that I will have to try to restrain myself a little in August.

I attended four book related events in July (previously discussed, so I won’t go into much detail) – and they were concentrated in the last couple of weeks. Two involved Taiye Selasi, who read excerpts from her first novel, Ghana must go,  to a packed audience at the Villa Monticello, followed the evening after by a discussion about how she finally made the decision to write her novel. Then Nigerian writer Chibundu Onuzo joined Martin Egblewogbe at an all too brief reading hosted by Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Sytris. And finally there was a reading by chick-lit/romance writer Nana Malone who gave a reading at the Goethe Institut. It was interesting to hear how she got into full-time writing, and that the self-publishing e-book route had served her well.

I am not sure what my plans are for August; I tend to decide on my reading on a rather ad hoc basis.   But I have plenty of works to choose from!

Book matters during January 2013

I completed five books: four fiction and one non-fiction, only one female author though, which is definitely unusual for me. One of the books was by a diasporan African, and another was by an African-American

  • The Sisters brothers, by Patric DeWitt [shorlisted for the Booker prize in 2011; a rather unusual Western with two killers as the main characters!]
  • Open city, by Teju Cole [read for Accra Book Club. I don’t think anyone present at the discussion liked the main character, and several of us found the lack of a resolution rather irritating, though we did like the actual writing
  • The omnivore’s dilemma, by Michael Pollan [I love reading about food, and this book definitely fit the bill]
  • The amateur spy, by Dan Fesperman [light reading, though I did wonder whether the main character was indeed an amateur]
  • The complete short stories, by Zora Neale Hurston [a new author for me. I found some of the language quite difficult at times]

I did buy six physical books – from Vidya Bookstore, and EPP at Legon: two non-fiction and four fiction. I also got two autographed books as presents from my daughter, plus four on my Kindle from my sister.  Nothing like a few books to liven up the New Year

I only wish that my reading would keep up with my buying.

Only one book event during the month, which I have already talked about – and yes, eventually I did get a copy of Kofi Annan’s book, Interventions.

November – librarians’ meeting and readings

When I initially started thinking about this post I thought November hadn’t been a particular busy month, but on reflection, maybe that was not quite the case.

I completed five books during the period:

  1. The kaya-girl, by Mamle Wolo [First prize Winner of the 2011 Burt Award]. A fun read for teens/young adults.
  2. Florida heatwave, edited by Michael Lister. [A collection of thriller short stories set in Florida; some definitely better than others]
  3. My first coup d’etat: Memories from the lost decades of Africa, by John Dramani Mahama [Written when the now President of Ghana was Vice-President; some interesting anecdotes from a contemporary politician.  We felt we had to read and discuss this book before Ghana’s Election Day on 7 December 2012]
  4. It happened in Ghana – A historical romance 1824-1971, by Noel Smith [not sure how to describe this book, which mentioned various events in Ghana’s history; I didn’t think it was that great]
  5. A discovery of witches, by Deborah Harkness [all right, I haven’t read the whole Twilight series, but this vampire/witch/daemon story has its entertaining bits!]

There was a preponderance of books on Ghana, with more fiction (as usual), but more male authors than female.  And I did read two of the books on my Kindle, definitely a bit more than usual!

I bought four books during the period – all from Vidya Bookstore  so as usual my TBR shelves continue to grow

  1. Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie
  2. The casual vacancy, by J K Rowling
  3. American dervish, by Ayad Akhtar [actually on one of my wish lists for a while]
  4. Amateur spy, by Dan Fespermann

My bookish/library activities during the month of November were three:

  • Ghana Library Association‘s biennial congress & AGM – took place in the first week in November.  Alternately interesting and a bit irritating.  Great to see professional colleagues.  Election results were pretty interesting – a much younger group elected!
  • Accra Book Club’s discussion of My first coup d’etat, by John Dramani Mahama.  We all agreed that it was great that a Ghanaian politician should put pen to paper, and wished that more would do so.  Reactions from those of us who had spent some time in Ghana did differ a bit from those who hadn’t.  But generally we liked it.
  • Readings by Chuma Nwokolo, author of The ghost of Sani Abacha and Diaries of a dead African, at his visit to Ashesi.   Very entertaining and amusing.  I think all the students and others present enjoyed it.

Maybe readers should be the judge as to whether November was a busy or quiet month?

October books and reading – belatedly posted

I thought I had posted this, but obviously I hadn’t!  Ooops…

So better late than never?

I finished reading five books in October – though I do admit that at the end of the month I was reading quite a few more!

  • The cry of Winnie Mandela, by Njabulo Ndebele [a colleague recommended this; part of my Africa Reading Challenge]
  • In pursuit of my destiny – Memoirs of a parliamentarian, by Kosi Kedem [a librarian by professional training; this is autobiographical, and quite illuminating]
  • A free man of color, by Barbara Hambly [for Accra Book Club]
  • The manual of detection, by Jedediah Berry [on my TBR shelves for a while; pretty good]
  • African violet and other stories: the Caine prize for African writing 2012 [I had read the shortlisted stories already, but this was the full 2012 collection]

Two had African backgrounds and one was about a Ghanaian; more males than female authors, and one collection of short stories. I read one book on Kindle; the rest were physical books.

I bought five books – several that I had been on my wish lists for a while, plus I got one book for free!

Only two book related events though, in contrast to the extremely busy September:

  • A regular gathering of the Accra Book Club, where we talked about A free man of color by Barbara Hambly. Also the situation of New Orleans in the transition period after the French had left, and Americans were moving in.
  • The last Ghana Voices event hosted by the Writers Project of Ghana at the Goethe Institut: Mamle Wolo read excerpts from her prize-winning work for young adults/teens – The kaya-girl, which I have mentioned before as it won the first prize for the 2011 Burt Award

November will definitely be a bit busier, as I am looking forward to the Ghana Library Association’s 50th Anniversary Biennial Congress and AGM, as well as the usual reading.

July reads and buys

July seemed to be another relatively quiet month on the books side.

I feel I am getting increasingly distracted, especially by technology related matters, so don’t read as much as I used.  I guess I am looking for an ideal reading chair, with good lighting, and I still haven’t really found that yet.  The search is definitely on.

So I completed five books during the month: four fiction and one non-fiction. There was one African author, three non-Africans, and the last was a collection of British authors. Unusually mostly male authors (three) versus one female author, with the short story collection a mix. These are the titles:

  • Mixed blood, by Roger Smith [a pretty good debut thriller, based in South Africa]
  • What women want, by Paco Underhill [the need for marketing targeted at women]
  • The angel’s game, by Carlos Zuiz Zafon [fantasy, thriller, Faustian tale set in Spain]
  • Ox-tales – Air [collection of short stories]
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel [started ages ago, and finally finished; Booker prize winning historical novel]

My book-buying was a bit restrained too – I only bought four physical books, and no ebooks 😦

  • The librarian as a manager, by Mac-Anthony Cobblah
  • Fulani in Ghana, by Steve Tonah
  • Six frames, by Edward de Bono
  • In pursuit of my destiny: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian, by Kosi Kedem

Interestingly two of the above are by colleague Ghanaian librarians, though Kedem did leave the practice of working in libraries for politics for several years.

I attended a couple of bookish related activities in July: a library related conference (CULD – Committee of University Librarians and Deputies) in Cape Coast and the official Burt award ceremony, which I posted about earlier.